First-year law students partner with United Way for service-learning project

students shovel soil in a garden bed
First-year Mercer Law students volunteer at the Brookdale Resource Center community garden in Macon on Aug. 10. Photo by Amanda Greechan

Preparing for the practice of law goes beyond what happens in the classroom. It includes becoming an engaged leader in the community. Mercer Law School has a long tradition of producing lawyers who are ready to practice and committed to serve. This tradition made its way in the Class of 2026 orientation.

Through a service-learning project aligning with Mercer Law’s 150th anniversary celebration, the incoming class of first-year law students joined law school faculty and staff to take a stand against homelessness in the Middle Georgia community. The project organized by United Way of Central Georgia, Macon-Bibb County and Mercer Law provided the group an opportunity to volunteer at the gardens at the Brookdale Resource Center on Aug. 10. The goal was for the law community to learn about and support needs in the Middle Georgia community.

a student rakes the ground
A first-year law student volunteers at the Brookdale Resource Center community garden in Macon on Aug. 10. Photo by Maggie Reimer

As part of the Class of 2026 Orientation Week, this experience provided insights into the center’s operations, challenges faced by individuals experiencing homelessness and strides being taken to combat this pressing social issue. The collaboration also aimed to beautify the center’s surroundings through a partnership with Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful.

Students toured the Brookdale Resource Center, learned how Macon-Bibb County and United Way of Central Georgia are addressing homelessness in our neighborhoods through a transitional housing program, and worked in the garden, weeding, harvesting, digging trenches and composting.

“Our vision for orientation this year was building community through engagement, participation and connectivity,” Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Jeannie Zipperer said. “The service-learning project at Brookdale was an integral component of realizing our vision and reinforcing the impact our future lawyers can have within their communities through excellence in service.”

Almost 40% of the incoming class answered the call to volunteer without hesitation.

“Our service project was a humbling reminder that our true goals are best served when they are found in the service of others,” Charlie Johnson said. “To help those who are so intricately, intimately and selflessly involved with the service of others has certainly earned my support as well as my respect from this experience.”

Fellow first-year law student Brittany Carter said she is proud to attend a university that provides students opportunities to give back to the community and is looking forward to participating in similar events in the future.

Brookdale Resource Center has made a significant impact on the lives of numerous families and individuals by offering a comprehensive 90-day program that provides transitional housing and essential support services. This year, the garden has contributed more than 1,800 pounds of fresh produce to the center’s kitchen, serving as a vital source of nourishment for those experiencing homelessness and supporting the center’s mission.

Mercer Law School offers many service opportunities throughout the year. More than 30 student organizations such as Association of Women Law Students, Black Law Students Association, OUTLaw, and Phi Delta Pi regularly give back to the community through volunteerism and fundraising events.

“Our students, under appropriate supervision, participate in externships and clinics that promote access to legal services,” Dean Karen J. Sneddon said. “Our student organizations raise funds and directly support a number of organizations in Middle Georgia. This year, we were intentional about incorporating this service-learning event into orientation to promote community engagement from the first day of law school.

“Students remarked that they came to law school to make a difference. The service-learning event is just one of many ways in which the students will make an impact in the community.”

As the class works its way through the first year of law school, many will find purpose beyond book learning by committing time to helping the Middle Georgia community.


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